Food Blog | Cooking Blog
Whenever I go wander down the fish aisle of a supermarket or pop in to the local fishmonger, my eyes linger on the baffling affordability of cod relative to its' rivalling shelf mates (tuna, haddock, plaice, bass and so on). Line caught, boneless and skinless cod fillets approximate at £1.50 per steak, and that is if you are going for the really good quality (we are talking Waitrose grocery and The Chelsea Fishmonger here, so you are guaranteed to find better bang for your buck elsewhere). The white flaky swimmer has been one of Britains' favourites for decades, playing host to some of the best fish and chip beer batters our country has ever known (Rick Stein, we are lookin' at you). It is delicate and oily in texture but holds firm during cooking and its' flavour is incredibly mild, which makes it the perfectly versatile fish to incorporate into countless different recipes.
Broil it in butter and garnish it with parsley, lemon and dill for something light and summery; pan fry it in miso-teryaki for something Japanese, poach it in white wine and serve it up with your favourite root veggies; or bake it in a lemon-pepper breadcrumb crust for something hearty and aromatic: the options are endless. Here, I went for something quick yet seemingly sophisticated, in an attempt to impress my plus one with something lavish on a dreary, slightly flu-ey December Wednesday evening with only 20 minutes on the clock. The fish was the only thing I bought, as the other ingredients are fairly staple store cupboard and fridge/freezer features, and the emergent combination of flavours was heartwarming and delicious. What is brilliant is that the cod is entirely replaceable with any other flakey white fish (pollock, haddock) or something oilier (bass, plaice) if you so wish (the cooking times are really very much the same) and you can add and omit as you go - some people hate capers, some people prefer pecorino to parmesan - use it as a launchpad for adaptation. Oh, and the mushrooms really aren't a must, I just love 'em and they went so brilliantly with the fish that I thought it cruel not to share a couple of pictures with you!
1. Use a hand blender or small food processor to dice up the parsley and capers and then combine with the oil and wine in your baking dish (i used a small rectangular ramekin, but anything that isn't too large will do).
2. Combine the breadcrumbs and parmesan gratings with the salt and pepper, and beat the egg in a separate bowl. Pat the fish dry using a paper towel to remove any unwanted water and then dip both sides into the egg, and then breadcrumb mixture.
3. Place each fillet into your baking dish and baste with the wine and herb liquid so that the breadcrumb crust takes on some of the flavour from the parsley and capers. You want each fish to be about half submerged in the winey poaching liquid so that it takes on as much of its' flavour as possible, remaining soft throughout but still able to develop a golden crusty topping.
4. Place in a convection oven at 180° and cook for 25 minutes. Whilst this is going on, get the pancetta into a frying pan and cook for about 5 minutes on a medium heat so that each cube is cooked through without developing too much crispiness.
5. When these are done, you can use the same pan to fry up your mushrooms. Leave the fat from the pancetta, as it will tie everything together, but add a teaspoon of butter and a small glug of olive oil to avoid burning. Fry for about 8 minutes, tossing them every two minutes or so. Space them out so that they don't sweat and boil each other, we want them crispy and golden.
6. Whack the oven onto its' grill setting and remove your fish. Spoon the pancetta onto each fillet and place the dish back into the oven for a further 7-8 minutes, or until the breadcrumb crust is golden and the pancetta is almost inedibly cripsy.
Serve immediately with your mushrooms and whatever else takes your fancy. I went for parmentier potatoes, a handful of raw baby spinach tossed in olive oil and a big glass of the dry white I had used to poach the cod! Faaaaan fucking tastic. X!
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